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Natural Family Planning Basics

Learn the basics of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and glean other benefits for your health with NFP by charting. It is possible to find natural solutions for your super heavy period and to regulate your cycle without birth control, quell estrogen dominance, and overcome sticky, continuous cervical mucus.

NFP Basics Billings Sympto Thermal Creighton myths busted

Ever gone to a wedding and predicted that it wouldn’t last?

I can’t think of a more sad, sad thing, that the genesis of a marriage, of a family, of a designed-to-be-eternal union could be already destined for the end.

But with over half of all American marriages ending in divorce in our culture, I bet there are thousands of people quietly sitting at weddings thinking about divorce.

It’s not good for families, not good for the couple, and it’s really detrimental to all of society.

In fact, I’ve read that in spite of the fact that Catholic parishes are closing for lack of priests, “the single greatest vocation crisis in the church is marriage.” And I believe it.

NFP Info Night

In the fall of 2013 (wayyyy too long ago!) my husband and I hosted an incredible presentation at our church. Teachers representing three methods of Natural Family Planning joined us for an NFP information night, and we’ve finally edited the videos together so I can share that information with you. Read about my more recent journey on how continuous cervical mucus made NFP challenging and how my charting improved other areas of my health. 

The three methods are the Couple to Couple League’s sympto-thermal method, the Creighton Model and the Billings Ovulation Method.

It’s wedding season…and there’s no more important and valuable way to start a marriage than with the right foundation for sex, family, and God: Natural Family Planning.

As you’ll see in the video, NFP promotes communication for the couple, and even though it’s not always easy. 

I find it intriguing that couples practicing NFP only experience a 4% divorce rate.

Natural Family Planning: Three Different Methods that Every Couple Needs to Understand!

If you can’t view the video above, watch Natural Family Planning Methods on YouTube.

If you’re in the West Michigan area, find info on all our wonderful NFP resources, teachers, classes and events (from all methods) here:

For those who don’t have time to watch the whole thing, here is a breakdown of the main points so you can skip around:

  • The basic definition Of NFP: Analyzing a woman’s cycle and physical clues to determine the couple’s mutual fertility, then choosing whether to seek or avoid pregnancy in a given cycle by timing intercourse appropriately, based on the couple’s discernment.
  • Cultural challenges to NFP
  • Important note: This info night is not a crash course in HOW to practice NFP, just an overview of the basic methods. You should take a class in order to learn it properly!!
  • 4:20 the physical, emotional and environmental side effects of contraception
  • 6:00 Why the Catholic Church says contraception is immoral.
  • 6:50 Is NFP just Catholic contraception?
  • 7:30 Humorous video on NFP vs. contraception
  • 10:30 Janet Smith’s weight loss analogy for NFP and contraception
  • 12:50 slide show introduction to Natural Family Planning (via the Billings Ovulation Method)
    • includes marriage benefits, Catholic Church teachings, why it’s different from the rhythm method (radically!), 97-99% Perfect Use Effectiveness in avoiding pregnancy, effective at achieving pregnancy, biological and relational differences between NFP and contraception
  • 25:00 Introductions of all 3 sets of teachers and their methods; you’ll get a quick overview of the differences and similarities of the various methods in this part
  • 33:00 Question 1: Origins of each method, who started it, etc.
    • CCL: Sympto-thermal
    • 37:25 Creighton Model, Pope John Paul IV Institute, NaPro Technology
    • 40:55 Billings Ovulation Method, developed in 1953 by Drs. John and Evelyn Billings
  • 43:40 Question 2: What coursework did you have to complete to become an instructor?
  • 51:05 Question 3: What tools do people need to use this method? (charts, technological apps, etc.)
    • Billings, then CCL, then Creighton (CCL’s app is called CyclePro; there are a number of different apps that can track fertility applicable to all methods)
  • 56:20 Question 4: How can a couple use NFP to both achieve or avoid pregnancy?
    • Bottom line: It’s all about knowing your fertile and infertile times and choosing love-making timing accordingly. (Kid alert: There’s mucus talk in this one!)
  • 1:01:25 Question 5: What do you say to people who say, “NFP just isn’t effective!”
    • Billings answered first – there are a lot of misconceptions out there, so if you haven’t tried it, with a course from an actual instructor, you don’t know enough to state that.
  • 1:04:30 Question 6: What do you say to people who say it’s just way too hard to practice NFP?
    • Creighton answered first: “Anything worthwhile is often challenging at first…” In time it’s no harder than anything else.
  • 1:06:39 Why do you love teaching NFP?
  • 1:10:55 Finding the right fit: What kind of person would be a good fit for your method?
    • Creighton, then Billings, then CCL
  • 1:18:36 Another NFP vs. Contraception humorous video
  • 1:19:40 We come back, but oy! We switched cameras because we needed a new battery, and this one was possessed. So there’s no video, just audio for a while.
  • 1:19:55 US News and World Report: “Devout Catholics have sex more frequently, are more likely to take their sex lives seriously, and are more comfortable with the idea of sexual pleasure than any other demographic, religious or not.”
Katie Kimball and family sitting on a bed. NFP Basics - Billings, Sympto-Thermal, Creighton myths busted

NFP Audience Q&A

Some of this will be relative to the Grand Rapids area, but most is applicable to anyone.

  • 1:21:00 Does CCL offer classes specifically tailored to postpartum, return of fertility after childbirth?
  • 1:22:20 It’s hard to get the husband involved and felt like it was often him asking the wife, “Is this a fertile time? Is it not?” Teachers shared tips with balancing desires and communication as a couple about fertile and infertile times.
    • A: Anytime your husband brings it up, you should be flattered that he’s madly in love with you.” Smile
    • CCL rang in from the man’s perspective, Creighton recommended the man being responsible for the chart…
  • 1:27:55 How critical is the charting – from the perspective of, if I know it’s infertile mucus, do I have to chart that, and then once it’s fertile mucus I can chart again until back to phase 3? That’s what I’ve been doing; is there a problem with that?
    • Billings answered first but everyone rang in – it’s very important especially in Phase 1 after a period. You need to see patterns and many things can affect your fertility, stress, illness, baby nursing, etc. Complacency is being open to life. Smile
    • Charting something that feels like it’s going nowhere seems monotonous, but eventually it’s going to go somewhere. You need to chart so you can see the change happen.
  • 1:35:40 Where would be a good place to find a review if we took sympto-thermal classes a long time ago? Where can I ask questions about irregularities? (some online and some local answers)
    • 1:40:00 cost of various classes
  • 1:42:20 Practical ways to remind yourself to keep track of charts and work together as a team.
  • 1:49:20 Let’s address the myth – does every NFP family have a larger than average size family?
Please pass this information on to young couples in your life, pray for the sanctity of marriage, and look for an instructor in your area if you’re in a position to learn NFP. It’s good for marriages!
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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18 thoughts on “Natural Family Planning Basics”

  1. I have to pipe up with “correlation does not equal causation”. 🙂 I suspect that the couples willing to use NFP are more religious and Christians who are active in their faith are less likely to divorce! Possibly NFP leads to better communication and that helps too. Otherwise, I am glad to see this discussion of different NFP methods. As I’m approaching premenopause, I’m finding the Marquette method (somewhat modified – I just read about it and am using ovulation predictor tests) very helpful. I am actually Protestant and we use a barrier method, so it’s really Fertility Awareness Method, but I am SO thankful that some close friends mentioned this whole approach to us before we got married and I never even tried hormonal birth control! Personally, I keep track all by myself (I tell my hubby what’s going on but he hates hearing about biology, i.e. EVERYTHING inside the body – and I’m a veterinarian!). But I definitely feel his love in that he doesn’t want me to risk any of the contraceptives that might have side effects, and he’s willing to do whatever I tell him the cycle says it’s time to do. 😉

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I have had the same thought when I hear about how NFP lowers the divorce rate. The people who choose to use it are probably already less likely to divorce. However, I also think the increased communication is a significant factor. Lack of communication, specifically surrounding sex can be a big source of tension, misunderstanding, and disagreements in a marriage. So while it isn’t the only factor, I do think there’s some causation there. We’re also protestants using FAM. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I are “NFP Liaisons” at our parish (we coordinate between the Archdiocese and our parish for NFP related items). We use the Couple-to-Couple League’s Sympto-Thermal Method and love it. We also have two friends who are OB/GYNs at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha. I would love to be able to do a presentation like this at our parish sometime, so it was really helpful to see your take on an agenda and some questions to ask! Thanks for making this wealth of information available to those who might not otherwise run across it. Oh – and CCL’s software/app/online charting is CycleProGo (

  3. Hi Katie! I’ve loved your blog for years. I just wanted to assure you that the divorce rate is not anywhere near 50 percent. I wish I could think of the book I read that described how the myth happened and also discussed that those who are Christians do in fact have a lower divorce rate. You should be able to find articles supporting this. I come from a broken home, but have a great marriage. That statistic was frightening when walking down the aisle, which is one of many reasons I was happy to hear it wasn’t true. 🙂

    1. I had a someone take me to task years ago over this. At some point, in one year, there were half as many people that got divorced as got married. So to put numbers to it, 100 couples got married and 50 got divorced. But, of course not all those 50 had just gotten married, in fact, very few of the just married couples probably got divorced. And that 50 were from ALL married couples from all previous years – I don’t even know what number to put on it, what, 1,000? 5,000? So it isn’t accurate, but I don’t know what is.

      Thanks for mentioning this very important topic, Katie. I’m just learning Creighton after many years of throwing things to the wind. It is SUPER interesting!

  4. I love NFP or for non Catholics, the Fertility Awareness Method (secondary protection such as pulling out when fertile). I love the Lady Comp specifically. It takes all the work out of it and is extremely cautious. I have never gotten pregnant with years of using it. I did study the method by classes (CCL) and reading as well though. But I trust my lady comp. This seems like a big stretch that it helps save marriages. I believe it’s more like the people willing to put up with it are less likely to fail, especially a husband willing to put the woman’s health above what is easier for him. I tried birth control and HATED what it did to my health. NFP doesn’t do anything to my body, and I love being in touch with the rhythm of my body. It is so amazing and beautiful. My husband has to be in touch with my body’s rythym and respect it…which seems like serving me in a way…instead of just doing whatever is easier for him. It shows me how he loves me that he is willing to go on that journey with me instead of expecting me to use birth control.

    1. The only problem with the Lady Comp is the cautiousness. My cycle is often hard to read (sometimes short cycle plus likely double ovulation which runs in my family…in other words likely high fertility) and sometimes I get almost a whole cycle of “red days” (high fertility) or “yellow days” (questionable fertility). But no mistakes. It is nice we practice the Fertility Awareness Method, not the stricter NFP with so little “green days”.

      1. Oh, the other benefit is KNOWING your cycle, which is great for health reasons and planning (like when your period will start).

  5. NFP: It’s not just for Catholics! Not all methods are complicated!!
    If you fit certain critia you can use the Standard Days / Cycle Beads method. It’s really easy. Really.
    Devolved by Georgetown University and 95% effective.
    Katie, I really respect your religious reasons for NFP. However that’s not an issue for us, and we just don’t want to use hormonal contraception. So on “fertile days” we use a barrier device.
    Thanks for helping to get the word out about NFP:)

  6. I’m sorry you didn’t include info on Marquette. The marquette method has been a godsend and is saving nfp for our marriage. It’s so much easier postpartum. Even with STM postpartum class my mucus was too confusing while breastfeeding. Marquette uses the clearblue fertility monitor to test for lutenizing hormone.

    1. Hi Angie,
      I wish I knew a Marquette instructor! I just had someone ask me if I could direct them to one in the area and I came up empty. 🙁 I’ve heard great things about the clearblue monitor, so thank you for adding this note to the post – there are definitely more than 3 NFP methods! 🙂 Katie

  7. Margaret Patterson

    I have questions for you regarding natural family planning. Would you be willing to email back and forth with me? I have been doing it for a few months, but am not able to find any teachers in my area and would LOVE to talk with someone who has actually done it. Thanks in advance!

  8. I really disagree with the assumption that it will divorce-proof your marriage. We’ve been practicing it for 13yrs, and we’ve been close to divorce several times. Our problems were due to selfishness, and during these rocky times NFP was not a comfort. It was a great stress. The fear of getting pregnant is real.
    I love NFP. It’s not easy, but it works! I really love that it’s natural and that it’s based in a knowledge of the body’s functions. I would NOT use hormonal contraceptives, NFP or Natural Fertility Awareness are wonderful for the woman, couple, and family. But, the point I’m trying to make is that it should be sold the way it is: a practice that can bring a couple closeness, not a guarantee that it will. A marriages can still be in great trouble while using it.

    1. Thank you so much for your honesty, BW, and praise God that your marriage made it through! You’re absolutely right – NFP is not a sure-fire divorce-proof fix. I think it helps…and who knows, maybe if you hadn’t been using NFP, the divorce would have actually happened not because of NFP or pregnancy related issues but because your communication might not have been as good. There’s still that 4% I mentioned…some marriages just don’t make it, no matter what. I’m glad you chimed in though – and even more glad that your 13-year marriage is alive and well. God bless you, Katie

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